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Posted by WW on October 07, 2002 at 03:36:52:
In Reply to: hybridization question posted by patricia sherman on October 06, 2002 at 04:03:52:
:I was just browsing the "Hybrid" forum for the first time today, and ran across a query about whether or not it would be possible to hybridize an Asian elaphe with a North American lampropeltis. The answer intrigued me. Basically, the response was that it is highly unlikely, since the North American elaphe is more closely related to the lampropeltis, than it is to the Asian elaphe.
:If these species (North American elaphe and Asian elaphe) are so different as not to be capable of hybrizing, how come that they're both in the same genus? By the same token, if lampropeltis is capable of hybridizing with North American elaphe, why aren't they both in the same genus?
Firstly, whether two species can or cannot hybridise does not determine whether they should or should not be in the same genus. This is a common misconception in the hobby, but is in fact totally fictitious.
Your question does touch on a real issue, however, which is the classification of Asian rat snakes. It is very clear that Elaphe, as currently conceived, is totally artificial - as you note, American Elaphe are closer to Lampropeltis and Pituophis than to any Old World Elaphe - clearly they should not be in the same genus. Since the type species of the genus Elaphe is a European species, E. quatuorlineata, the North American forms would need to be assigned to another genus. Moreover, European and Asian rat snakes are an extremely heterogenous bunch, and do not form a natual group either, so they should also be in multiple genera. A recent paper by Helfenberger, in the Russian Journal of Hepretology, totally reclassified all Elaphe. I haven't seen it yet, but you can track it down through Breck Bartholomew's excellent Herpetological Contents website at www.herplit.com
I hope this helps at least to some point.